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San Marino: A small, fairy tale land

Almeria Allen

The Jakarta Post

San Marino  /  Tue, March 7, 2017  /  01:11 pm
San Marino: A small, fairy tale land

Overview: A view of San Marino from the top of a nearby hill. (JP/Almeria Allen)

A friend of mine was organizing a wedding in Florence, Italy. At almost the same time, our common friend was attending a conference in Berlin.

The initial idea was for the three of us to meet in Rome. As the meeting day approached, another idea came up — we decided to take a trip to a place that we previously had not realized was actually a country, San Marino.

San Marino is an independent republic enclosed within Italy, between the borders of Emilia-Romagna and Le Marche regions.

The Republic of San Marino is located in Central Italy, 10 kilometers from the Adriatic Sea. It only has road connections with Italy. To reach San Marino by bus, the closest city is Rimini in Italy. The bus fare from Rimini to San Marino is €5 (US$5.31) one way; the trip lasts only an hour.

First we flew down to Bologna, Italy, and took the train to Rimini. The train from Bologna to Rimini costs you €20. That is the fastest one, taking less than an hour. It costs more as it only stops at a few stations. The other train will take you to Rimini in approximately two hours.

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There is also a shuttle bus from Bologna airport to Rimini that costs between €20 and €25. The journey takes one-and-a-half to two hours. Wi-Fi is provided on the bus.

San Marino is not a European Union country. However, if you already have a Schengen Area visa, you do not need another visa to enter the country. There is no passport control either. You will not think you are crossing a border until you see signs from administrative districts.

Cava Balestieri - The wall of defense(JP/Almeria Allen)

If you are a stamp collector, make sure you buy stamps from one of the city’s shops and post your cards in one of the white postboxes before you leave.

History says San Marino was founded in the fourth century by a saint of the same name, Saint Marinus. He left the island of Arba (now Croatia) and went to Rimini. He sought refuge nearby Monte Titano while fleeing religious persecution.

In 1631, its independence was recognized by the pope. Through diplomacy, San Marino managed to hang onto its independence through the centuries, even opting out when Italy was unified in the 19th century.

This is a country of clifftop castles. It offers real versions of the castles in Disney movies — with romantic ruins of fortifications and narrow streets.

The streets of San Marino are full of shops and restaurants. The average prices were very low compared to the country I live in, Denmark.

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San Marino’s economy relies heavily on tourism, the banking industry and manufacturing as well as exports of ceramics, clothing, fabric, furniture, paint, spirits, tiles and wine.

San Marino is one of the wealthiest countries in the world in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. It is also considered to have a highly stable economy with the lowest unemployment rates in Europe. It has neither debt nor a budget surplus. 

A funny fact is that it is the only country with more vehicles than people. 

The house of God: The Cathedral of San Marino.(JP/Almeria Allen)

San Marino’s cuisine is extremely similar to Italian food. If you love pasta, you won’t have a problem. Try the Torta Tre Monti — a layered wafer cake covered in chocolate. We were served piadina bread by an Indonesian student we met by surprise in San Marino, who was travelling with a student companion from Albania.

The city of San Marino is what most tourists come to see; it is an impressive citadel. Monte Titano is the highest peak. It is located 750 meters above sea level and the wind makes the temperature cooler than the plains below.

The San Marino Historic Centre and Monte Titano became part of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage List in 2008.

Grand building: A crowd of people pass by Palazzo Pubblico, the city council.(JP/Almeria Allen)

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Monte Titano has three fortresses perched atop a cliff. When we were there, the sky lift was closed, so we trekked up to the towers.

Guaita is the oldest of the three towers. It was originally a prison for a brief time.

Cesta is the second tower. A museum to honor Saint Marinus was built in 1956 and is located in the tower.

Montale is the third tower. It located on the smallest of Monte Titano’s summits. This one is not open to the public. Montale, which was built in the 14th century, was also used as a prison. The only entrance to the tower is a door about 7 m from the ground that was common in prison architecture at the time.

This is one of the least known countries in Europe. Maybe we should keep our mouths shut if we want to have this mysterious country to ourselves.

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